You can find the meaning of your life – in the simple sentences you use everyday.
Meaning in life is a purely psychological construct. Our body does not seek meaning; it seeks food, water and touch. Our mind, on the other hand, seeks associations of experience from which meanings arise. The meanings in our life are created in basic sentences which we often don’t recognize because they are so simple. For example, the statement ‘life is suffering’ is more than a simple sentence, it is an equation which generates meaning. The word ‘is’ serves the same purpose as ‘equals.’ For example, you can rephrase 2 + 2 = 4 as two plus two is four. The sentence ‘life is suffering’ can also be ‘life equals suffering’ or ‘life = suffering.’ Or, we could also just as easily say ‘life means suffering’ or 2 + 2 means 4. Equations generate meaning. Many of the sentences we use are equations. Meaning in our life is created by the equation-like sentences we use within our mind.
To get a handle on this idea, think of several sentences you use in daily life which use ‘is,’ ‘are’, ‘be’, ‘am’ or variations of those such as ‘will be’ or ‘has been’ and change them to ‘equals.’ Here are some examples: ‘John is such a jerk he’s always making stupid jokes’ becomes ‘John equals such a jerk he equals always making stupid jokes.’ Or, another example, ‘Sally is one of the most productive workers at the office’ becomes ‘Sally equals one of the most productive workers at the office.’ This can also be written out as ‘John = such a jerk….’ And ‘Sally = one of the most…..’
We form our meanings in life with equations. Many of the sentences we use are equations. But, we don’t see that we think in equation-like sentences because we view these equations as nothing but sentences. Yet, sentences are, in fact, equations when we use the word ‘is’ or its variations (‘am,’, ‘be,’, etc.). The meanings we form in our mind are based on a ‘chain of logic’ which can often be very silly. Silly logic works like this: If you are mistaken and to be mistaken is bad, then you are bad. This is represented as: A = B and B = C, therefore A = C. Technically, this is called a ‘syllogism,’ but you can call it silly logic, because it can get very silly. For example, ‘Housewives are dull and I am a housewife, therefore, I am dull’ is a syllogism – its silly logic. The first sentence, called the premise, may or may not be true. That doesn’t matter. If it is accepted as true, the conclusion will also be accepted as true and we will believe the whole chain of logic, as silly as it is. And, if we believe it, we might find ourselves, if we are a housewife, feeling dull, depressed or lethargic and not understand why. But, let’s say a housewife has different set of silly logic equations such as ‘Housewives are creative and I am a housewife, therefore, I am creative.’ This housewife might find herself living a happy, energetic life because of these few silly logical simple sentence equations housed in the mind. There is meaning in both examples because both examples generate silly logical equations which are the basis of meanings; yet, one chain of silly logic creates low energy and maybe depression while another generates high energy and satisfaction.
Everyone has silly logic equations in their mind. Consequently, everyone has meanings in their life. These meanings are made with equation – like sentences. Some sentences will add a positive spin to our life, others can make our life miserable. If you think you lack meaning in your life, take some time to explore and examine the internal sentence/equations you are using. These equation-like sentences are built up over the years through experience and associations coupled with internalized dialogue and mental pictures. For example, a child may have been frightened by an event, say almost drowning in a swimming pool. The child builds an equation something like swimming pool = danger – or, in sentence form, swimming pools are dangerous. The child may have also learned that dangerous situations are to be avoided. Or, in equation form, danger = avoid. With this chain of silly logic equations imbedded in the mind, now as a young adult, this person would naturally avoid swimming pools because they are dangerous and dangerous places are to be avoided. Or, phrased in meaning terms, swimming pools mean danger and danger means avoid. Many of the meanings we hold as an adult were formed during childhood and adolescence. They deserve some examination and probably some adjustments.
Silly logic equations are not bad; they are just sometimes irrational – a bit on the crazy side. However, they can also be realistic, helpful, productive and useful. In fact, we could not function without them. Silly logic equations are the foundation of all the meanings in our life. Without lengthy, complex chains of silly logic, nothing would mean anything in our life!
The point of this article is to suggest that if you are feeling a malaise, a lack of meaning in life, you need look no further than the simple sentences within your own mind to find the source. Everyone has meanings in their life. The real issue is not so much about finding meaning as much as it is about examining, questioning, challenging and changing the meanings that have already been formed and which may be irrational or…much too silly. As human beings, we have the freedom to make our meanings. We can choose what kind of silly logical equation-like sentences inhabit our mind.